“It is important that people who are integrated and already have completed a training course also have the chance to work,” Günther told broadcaster ARD on Monday. “For this we need to enable a change of track whereby asylum law is no longer applicable but rather a new immigration law.”
Germany’s coalition government agreed in July that it would start work on a new immigration law by the end of the year. The intention of any new law would be to make it easier for qualified workers to obtain a visa to live and work in Germany.
Coalition partners SPD welcomed Günter's proposals on Tuesday, saying that they represented a shift in tone in the CDU.
“This change of track is something that the CDU/CSU were firmly against in the coalition negotiations, so this is good,” said SPD deputy chairman Ralf Stegner.
Günther’s proposal met immediate resistance from the Christian Social Union (CSU), the most conservative party in the coalition government.
A spokesman for the CSU-controlled Interior Ministry told ARD that “we wouldn’t allow a ‘track change’.”
“We want want an immigration law that puts people into employment not into the employment centre,” he said.
Germany currently has significant problems with filling open positions in a wide range of skilled professions. A study by the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) found that a record high 1.2 million jobs remained unfilled at the end of last year.
While there is wide consensus in the Bundestag that Germany needs a new immigration law, there is also furious debate about how to deal with the asylum seekers who arrived in the country in 2015 and 2016.
The far-right Alternative for Germany have demanded that the government step up deportations of failed asylum seekers, while politicians from the SPD and the Green Party have argued that asylum seekers must be given better access to the job market.
The Green Party's Manfred Lucha proposed a draft for a new immigration law earlier this month, but Günther is the first high profile CDU politician to call for a right to work for rejected asylum seekers.